Mustafa Jawadi, a 17-year-old high school student from Afghanistan, is a prime example of a refugee who experienced anguish and delays in beginning his new life in the United States because of security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a refugee-advocacy group says.
The group held a press conference in Washington on May 21 to call attention to what it sees as unwarranted delays in processing applications for refugee status.
Mr. Jawadi, who now attends McLean High School in Virginia, would have arrived in the United States and become a student here more than a half-year sooner, the group says, if the resettlement of refugees to the United States hadn’t come to a standstill after the attacks.
After fleeing with his family from Afghanistan to Peshawar, Pakistan, several years ago, Mr. Jawadi was separated from his mother and siblings when he sought work in another city in Pakistan. Relaying his story through an interpreter at the press conference, he explained that when he returned to find them, he learned that they’d been granted refugee status and had moved to the United States.
He received approval as well to be a refugee to the United States on Sept. 13. But another 61/2 months passed until he was permitted to join his family.
Such postponements in resettlement have become all too common in the aftermath of Sept. 11, said Lennie Glickman, the chairman of the Refugee Council USA, the Washington-based coalition of national refugee-resettlement groups that sponsored the press conference.
The United States stopped receiving refugees for two months immediately following the attacks. On Nov. 21 of last year, President Bush promised that his administration would accept 70,000 refugees in fiscal 2002. But six months into that fiscal year, only 11,000 have in fact set foot on American soil, according to federal data.
The delays were necessary “to put new safeguards in place to protect the American public,” said Sandy Dean last week, a public affairs official for the U.S. Department of State .
When Mr. Jawadi arrived in the United States in March, he enrolled in the 165,000- student Fairfax County, Va., schools through its registration center for students whose first language isn’t English.
From December through April of this year, Fairfax County registered 36 student refugees, compared with 107 during the same period the year before.
Philadelphia’s public schools also registered fewer refugees this year than last, a school official there said.
—Mary Ann Zehr firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2002 edition of Education Week